YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (June 27, 2013) -- The U.S. Army's top operational command on the Korean Peninsula held a change-of-command ceremony June 27.

Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux assumed command of Eighth Army from Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson during the ceremony here on Knight Field.

The ceremony was attended by many senior U.S. and South Korean officials, including U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim and U.S. Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea.

Thurman thanked Johnson for his efforts to increase readiness.

"Eighth Army has reached uncharted levels of readiness," said Thurman, "and it's all about readiness as we deter aggression everyday and provide peace and stability on this peninsula."

"He has transformed his command into a Field Army, capable of standing up a combined joint task force and having an operational role in deterring aggression and if deterrence fails to fight and win in a decisive manner," said Thurman.

In command of Eighth Army since November 2010, Johnson is confirmed to become the next director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. Established in 2006, JIEDDO oversees the U.S. Department of Defense's efforts to defeat Improvised Explosive Devices as weapons of strategic influence.

During his two and a half years in command, Johnson has shepherded Eighth Army through its transition from an Army Service Component Command to Field Army capable of commanding multinational corps-level combat formations. As part of Pacific integration, Eighth Army's ASCC role has transferred to U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

A graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, Johnson led the storied U.S. Army combat formation during a time of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, assuming command two weeks prior to North Korea's unprovoked shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010.

Johnson also successfully managed many important issues facing the ROK-U.S. Alliance, including the eight-month joint investigation into the erroneous claims that Agent Orange was buried on Camp Carroll in 1978.

In addition to commanding Eighth Army, Johnson has served as the Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea chief of staff, positions which Champoux also assumed at the ceremony.

Johnson thanked the American Soldiers who defend freedom close to the world's most heavily fortified border.

"They proudly stand, just as they do on this field in front of us today, as a shield against tyranny," said Johnson. "For the past two and a half years, it has been my great honor to stand in their ranks and to be counted among them is the greatest honor of my life."

Promoted to three-star general before the ceremony, Champoux became the Eighth Army commanding general following an assignment as the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea Assistant Chief of Staff (CJ3) for operations.

Champoux has served in light, mechanized and motorized Infantry formations. He has commanded U.S. Army Ranger formations and the Schofield Barracks, Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division. The Saint Anselm College graduate has served in Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Champoux is also the son of a Korean War veteran, a company commander from the 65th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, who led Soldiers in battle at Jackson Heights.

"I'm proud to take command of Eighth Army and help defend the freedom that he, his fellow Soldiers and their Korean brothers and sisters fought so hard to procure here," said Champoux.

"Standing shoulder-to-shoulder together with our [Republic of Korea] allies, Eighth Army will grow stronger and more capable as we continue this transition to an operational Field Army and combined joint task forces headquarters," said Champoux.